The Daily Flog

Something smells fishy here, and I don't mean the fried smelt on the fish and ribs platter.

I recently reviewed a fairly new Southern style barbecue joint on West Colonial Drive called Southern Smoke Fish & Ribs. It was an OK review -- you can read it here: -- not the most glowing but it had some nice points. I even included a link to the review in my recent e-letter.

Then I heard from a reader that the restaurant had closed. When I called the listed number, a staff person answered. I asked if I had reached Southern Smoke Fish & Ribs and he allowed that I had. I identified myself and said I was calling because someone had told me the restaurant was closed.

"That's right," he said. We are currently closed while we work on the menu to make it better, he told me. I said that it seemed an odd decision to close a restaurant just to make some menu changes, especially a restaurant that had been open for just a few months. He hesitated and tried to get someone else -- I assume an owner -- to offer more elaboration, but he came back with that standard line.

Sorry, I'm just not buying that. My guess is that something else is going on here. It's very possible that they've been challenged on the use of the name -- there's another restaurant within Florida operating under that name. It could be something else, such as the owner is independently wealthy and doesn't mind stopping all incoming revenue while tweaking the menu.

If it is the name, perhaps they can make a subtle change. I suggest Southern Smoke and Mirrors.

RTS Trio

I'm pleased to announce a new partnership and the formation of Restaurant Talent Scouts, a new company to serve the staffing needs of Central Florida hospitality businesses. Scott Joseph Company is teaming with chef Rocky Tarantello of ROCInc, a restaurant consultancy, and recruiter Lenka Brady, owner of RBBR Marketing to form the new company.

What we'll do is play matchmaker of sorts, helping restaurants and other hospitality businesses find qualified chefs, managers and beverage directors. We offer the perspective of a well known chef, a seasoned recruiter and human resources professional, and someone who has been critiquing restaurants and analyzing their needs for over 27 years.

“The expertise that each of us brings to Restaurant Talent Scouts makes us uniquely qualified to provide our clients with the best people for their operation, whether it’s an executive chef, a front of the house manager or a beverage director,” said Brady, who was previously part of JetBlue Airline’s recruiting team. “With Lenka’s experience as a recruiter, mine working every kitchen job there is, and Scott’s background critiquing food and service, we’re able to fully vet each candidate and send only the most qualified individuals on to be interviewed,” added Tarantello. “I know from experience that restaurant owners waste a lot of time interviewing job candidates who don’t have the proper qualifications.”

What sets Restaurant Talent Scouts apart from other recruiting companies is its fee structure. It’s a standard industry practice to charge a percentage of the employee’s salary, including benefits. It’s not uncommon for the fee for placing an executive chef to total tens of thousands of dollars. Restaurant Talent Scouts charges a flat rate regardless of salary. Clients pay only when a qualified candidate is hired, and they are guaranteed the new employee will stay on the job for a specified period. Job candidates never pay a fee.

Restaurant Talent Scouts is now accepting applications from both employers and candidates at All job candidates must go through a thorough vetting process. Those seeking chef positions may be required to demonstrate their capabilities in a professional kitchen setting.

For more information, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the website.

HH Chef Mark Jeffers

Those folks at Grande Lakes Orlando are continuing their game of Musical Chefs.

I told you recently that chefs have been coming and going at the various restaurants at the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott resorts. Now comes word that Mark Jeffers, who opened Highball & Harvest last year as its chef de cuisine, has accepted the position of executive sous chef at the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay in California.

As with the other chefs I've told you about, Jeffers will be staying with the company. His replacement will be announced soon, but you can probably expect it to be someone promoted from within.


Merguez tagine

The Uzbeks have ceded to the Moroccans. At least in south Orlando on what in this case is the aptly named International Drive.

The last time I visited this space it was a full-service restaurant called Atlas House, which specialized in the cuisine of Uzbekistan. Atlas closed, one presumes with a shrug. Now it is a fast casual restaurant called Merguez, with foods of Moroccan descent.

I was delighted to see that Merguez (big M) specializes in tagine cooking and that merguez (little m) was one of the choices. A tagine gets its name from the dish it is cooked in, which is a round plate topped with a dome that chimneys the heat and smoke while the food is cooking. Merguez (here meant to be a small m but it’s starting off the sentence so its big) is a type of sausage that is common in North African cooking. Merguez (merguezes?) are small, almost smoky link-like.

Parkview interior

Today we welcome The Parkview to the site. (Welcome, Parkview!) The Parkview is the wine bar and restaurant on Park Avenue that used to be Eola Wine Company. EWC’s Scott Schrope sold the Winter Park location to his longtime manager, Matt Coltrin last year in an amicable transaction. (Schrope continues to own and operate the Orlando Eola Wine Company, which is actually across Lake Eola Park.)

Did you notice above that I referred to the Parkview as a wine bar and restaurant? That’s because Coltrin and his chef, A.J. Haines, have really stepped up the food here, offering a more substantial bill of fare to go with the already impressive bill of imbibes. They invited me to stop by recently and sample what’s coming out of the kitchen. I liked what I tasted.